Justice in the Islamic Stateis based on the video interview of Abu Albani, a Kosovar ISIS defector interviewed in prison in Kosovo by Anne Speckhard in June 2016. The video was produced by Zack Baddorf, and ICSVE staff.
Abu Albani travelled twice to Syria; first to join and fight with the Free Syrian Army and later to join and fight for ISIS. Abu Albani’s initial motivations for traveling to Syria were similar to many among the 850 young men and women who left from the Western Balkans, with many of them having experienced war in their own homeland. He had witnessed the horrors of war firsthand as a young boy, and also remembered that Americans had come to their rescue, which left him with a sense of responsibility towards others suffering under war. Watching videos of Assad’s atrocities and hearing about the call for foreign fighters to come and assist Sunni Arabs, Abu Albani heeded it—probably out of truly idealistic motives.
Returned to Kosovo after some time fighting in Syria, Abu Albani returned again, the second time with his wife accompanying him to Syria, this time to join ISIS and assist in building their so-called “Caliphate”. Abu Albani understood he could play an important role within the Albanian leadership already there. Once in ISIS, he fought on a daily basis, while his wife stayed at home with the other Albanian women and children.
In this video, Abu Albani speaks about the ISIS treatment of women, particularly widows. He explains that while ISIS claimed to care for its widows, they were in fact forced by ISIS-mandated laws to either suffer isolated at home without food and basic needs or agree to remarry other fightersto ensure their own and their children’s survival. He also notes that women were not allowed to travel alone to hospital and were not sent home for treatment—even when they had cancer—and that those in charge of medical care were inept.
According to Abu Albani, he argued with ISIS leaders about these and other issues, and when he was unable to get them to enact justice, as he believed it should occur, he defected from ISIS by paying a smuggler to take him out across the Turkish border. While Abu Albani risked everything to defect from a group he became disillusioned with due to their mistreatment of women and children, as he claimed, he became angered after being convicted and put in prison in Kosovo for participating in a terrorist group. Unsure if he made the right decision to leave—given his current prison sentence—he remains ambivalent about his defection.
Abu Albani ends this video talking about ISIS’s injustices being much worse than murder stating that they were engaged in fitnah injustices—worse than killings.
Timed transcript of Justice in the Islamic State video:
Justice in the Islamic State
O:03 It’s a good feeling when you have a weapon.
0:05 When you go to battle, you know that you have a weapon
0:07 and that you can defend yourself and attack others.
0:10 And, as long as you have a weapon, people will be afraid of approaching you.
0:14 Abu Albani served as an ISIS soldier for about a year.
0:20 I went to battles [to fight].
0:27 My wife [and] the wives of others [Albanians] gathered
and spent time together while we were in battle.
0:34 But then, Abu Albani’s wife got sick and wanted to leave ISIS-held Syria.
0:40 ABU ALBANI
Former ISIS Soldier
She also missed her family. The war. The bombardment. All of these eventually affected her.
0:46 Abu Albani also started to become weary of how poorly ISIS treated people.
0:52 Well, usually, for instance, related to family matters, they were committing injustices.
0:58 In the beginning, they would bring groceries and items to families,
1:01 but later they started taking care of only their own families.
1:08 Especially the wives of shahids [“martyr’s”], mostly Albanian women without their husbands,
1:11 were not being taken care of much.
1:14 Abu Albani often bought and delivered groceries to the ISIS widows but the ISIS leaders made this difficult for him.
1:20 When I would take our van to go grocery shopping,
1:23 this Macedonian guy would argue with me demanding that I go shopping on foot,
1:28 and carry the groceries in my hands.
1:30 These kind of injustices against women were many, especially towards the wives of martyrs.
1:36 [The ISIS members] knew that a shahid’s wife can’t go out by herself,
1:42 due to their laws, to buy groceries for herself or her children.
1:46 So she had no other choice but to remarry,
1:50 so that someone can take care of them.
1:51 They have difficult lives and that’s why they remarry.
1:52 They have difficult lives and that’s why they remarry.
1: 58 It’s not like they said, ‘Marry me, this guy, or that guy or else I will kill you.’
2:05 I can’t say that was [precisely] their goal, because they didn’t announce that.
2:09 But still, it was evident what was happening.
2:14 They wouldn’t allow sick women to go to a hospital by themselves.
2: 19 The woman is sick, how is she supposed to travel by herself 50 km, 100 km to a hospital?
2:24 They wouldn’t take them to a hospital. They didn’t take care of them.
2:28 They put a man in charge and he was unaccountable. He knew nothing, except how to make bread.
2:32 They put him in charge, and he was responsible for taking care of these women.
2:36 He couldn’t go anything. I couldn’t agree with such terms.
2:41 The wife of shahid Shefqet Hyseni [Ebu Samiri] from Mitrovica, [in Kosovo] a German lady,
2:48 she is in Syria with four of her kids and she is sick from cancer.
2:53` They are not taking her back to Kosovo so she can get cured,
2:55 or to some other place. Can you imagine?
2:59 She is left alone and sick in Syria.
2:59 No medical care. Nothing.
3:02 Meanwhile, Abu Albani started arguing with his commanders.
3:08 I would argue with them as they were doing things that were unjust within our Albanian group.
3:14 I could not accept their injustices.
3:16 I used to confront them all the time with words.
3:18 I confronted them both through actions and with words.
3:20 I never agreed with them when I knew they were in the wrong.
3:26 Usually I couldn’t accept injustices that were being done.
3:30 Not only for these kinds of matters.
3:32 There were many other troubles and I openly confronted them.
3:40 Allah talks about in the Quran, stating “fitnah,” injustices are worse than killings.
3:43 When you die, you either go to hell or Paradise.
3:46 And you disappear from this world.
3:49 But the injustices they do are much worse than murder.
3:55 Much worse than fitnah.
3:59 The Truth Behind the Islamic State
4:02 Sponsored by the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism
4:07 See more at TheRealJihad.org
Anne Speckhard, Ph.D., is Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) and serves as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine. She has interviewed over 600 terrorists, their family members and supporters in various parts of the world including in Western Europe, the Balkans, Central Asia, the Former Soviet Union and the Middle East. In the past two years, she and ICSVE staff have been collecting interviews (n=78) with ISIS defectors, returnees and prisoners, studying their trajectories into and out of terrorism, their experiences inside ISIS, as well as developing the Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative Project materials from these interviews. She has also been training key stakeholders in law enforcement, intelligence, educators, and other countering violent extremism professionals on the use of counter-narrative messaging materials produced by ICSVE both locally and internationally as well as studying the use of children as violent actors by groups such as ISIS and consulting on how to rehabilitate them. In 2007, she was responsible for designing the psychological and Islamic challenge aspects of the Detainee Rehabilitation Program in Iraq to be applied to 20,000 + detainees and 800 juveniles. She is a sought after counterterrorism experts and has consulted to NATO, OSCE, foreign governments and to the U.S. Senate & House, Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, Health & Human Services, CIA and FBI and CNN, BBC, NPR, Fox News, MSNBC, CTV, and in Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, London Times and many other publications. She regularly speaks and publishes on the topics of the psychology of radicalization and terrorism and is the author of several books, including Talking to Terrorists, Bride of ISIS, Undercover Jihadi and ISIS Defectors: Inside Stories of the Terrorist Caliphate. Her publications are found here: https://georgetown.academia.edu/AnneSpeckhardWebsite: and on the ICSVE website https://www.icsve.org